Consumer interest in telemedicine continues to rise

In yet another survey indicating rising consumer interest in telemedicine, 75 percent of patients who have not used telemedicine are at least "moderately interested" in it, according to an online poll conducted and funded by Software Advice.

For the survey, the company received responses from 519 individuals (138 of whom had used telemedicine and 381 who had not) over a two-day period who "may or may not represent client vendors of Software Advice." 

With emergency department wait times on the rise, only 16 percent of the respondents said they would prefer to seek care for a minor ailment at an emergency room if they also had access to telehealth services.

With healthcare organizations looking to find more cost-effective ways to provide care--between 8 percent and 27 percent of ER visits are non-emergencies that could be treated in a doctor's office or retail clinic--telemedicine provides an opportunity to ease the burden on ER staff and resources, the survey report points out.

And it could be less expensive. One recent study found that telehealth can save $100 or more per visit.

The survey also highlighted some patient concerns. For instance:

  • 21 respondents called telemedicine visits "less personal"
  • 8 percent said they are uncomfortable making video calls
  • 6 percent said they are unable to read body language over video

However, only 2 percent of respondents identified security as their main concern with the telemedical system used.

Fifty-six percent said they don't know whether their health insurance covers telemedicine visits.

Telehealth reimbursement is growing, too. New legislation in the past couple of years has extended reimbursement to veterans and Medicare patients. And New York just became the 22nd state to require parity in reimbursement for telehealth visits. Additionally, six other states--Arkansas, Connecticut, Indiana, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Washington--recently introduced telemedicine coverage legislation, according to the American Telemedicine Association.

Sixty-four percent of 2,019 consumers recently surveyed by Harris Poll on behalf of telehealth company American Well saying they are willing to consider a video chat with their doctor instead of an in-person visit.

To learn more:
- check out the survey results (.pdf)
- here's the ATA's updated list of state-by-state telemedicine legislation

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